Carroll officers in Block raid make only kingpin charge arrest

January 18, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

As nearly 600 state police troopers poured onto Baltimore's Block Friday night, Carroll drug officers were wrapping up the arrest of the only alleged drug kingpin taken into custody in the operation, officials said yesterday.

Three members of the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force arrested Lee Roy Purtee, 51, of Parkville and Ceovanni C. Gomez, 33, of New York, after Mr. Purtee allegedly agreed to sell an investigator a quantity of cocaine, Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III said.

Sgt. Andrew McKendrick, Cpl. Mark Gonder and Sheriff's Deputy Melvin Price also seized nearly 1.1 pounds of cocaine, easily the largest amount of drugs ever recovered by the task force, officials said.

"They did a hell of a job," Mr. Walker said yesterday. "This has been a long, ongoing investigation."

Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman and state police officials said that Mr. Purtee will be charged under Maryland's drug kingpin statute.

The statute carries a minimum prison sentence of 25 years without parole on conviction.

Authorities did not say whether Mr. Gomez -- alleged to be a New York-based cocaine supplier -- would be charged as a kingpin.

Lt. Gregory M. Shipley, a state police spokesman, said he didn't know where Mr. Purtee or Mr. Gomez were being held last night.

State police officials said the 1.1 pounds of cocaine -- worth roughly $38,700 on the street -- was the largest haul of drugs recovered in connection with The Block raid.

Whether the Friday arrest is connected to the drug trade in Carroll County is unknown. Neither Mr. Hickman nor Mr. Walker would comment on Mr. Purtee's connection to Carroll.

"We don't look at drugs as only a Carroll County problem," Mr. Walker said. "There is a major offensive in this state to do away with drug trafficking, and the Carroll Task Force is part of that initiative."

Like its counterparts statewide, the Carroll drug group was assigned to The Block operation about four months ago, Mr. Hickman said yesterday.

"The Block has become a hotbed of drugs because of its wide-open atmosphere," Mr. Hickman said.

He and Mr. Walker watched the raid Friday night.

Almost 600 state troopers, with assistance from Baltimore police and a few other law officers, stormed out of Ryder rental trucks parked in the 400 block of E. Baltimore St. about 8:30 p.m. Friday. Almost 100 arrests were made, and scores of bars and pornography shops were shut down.

More than 20 troopers from the Westminster state police barracks took part in the raid. Lt. Roy Neigh, the barracks commander, led one of the teams of raiders.

Mr. Walker said all six members of the Carroll task force -- two state troopers, two Westminster police officers and two sheriff's deputies -- took part in the investigation of Mr. Purtee.

Although the task force rarely works outside of the county, it is authorized to do so because of its connection with the state police, officials said.

"The advantage to using our task force in this operation is that The Block doesn't know these guys," Mr. Hickman said.

Mr. Hickman said his office will not be involved in the prosecution of Mr. Purtee and Mr. Gomez because they were arrested in Baltimore County. This represents only the second time the Carroll drug group has arrested someone to be charged as a drug kingpin.

In 1990, the task force charged a Taneytown couple and a Miami man with being drug kingpins, but, through plea deals, none was convicted as such.

Less than 400 grams of cocaine were seized in that arrest.

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